Crewe vs Stoke: Higgins’ HS2 phase 2 review to set out preferred north-west hub

Rebalancing Britain report on 27 October expected to underline HS2 case as driver for regional economic growth

David Higgins

HS2 chair Sir David Higgins is to publish his latest review of the £43bn High Speed 2 project entitled Rebalancing Britain will be published on 27 October and is expected to underpin the case for accelerating the second phase of the project so as to bring earlier economic benefits across the UK.

He is also expected to make clear his preferred location for a north-west hub station having previously suggested in his “HS2 plus” report last March that Crewe was a favoured option.

Last week the City of Stoke presented its case as an alternative which it claims is £2bn cheaper and provides Yorkshire link seven years faster than existing design. 

Speaking at the HS2 supply chain conference in London last week Higgins gave nothing away about the contents of his latest review of options and plans for phase 2 of the project to Manchester and Leeds, stating simply that the project presented a major “competitive advantage” for the UK. 

“We are making a transition from concept to reality – it was if; now it is when,” he said. “The project is about relieving capacity problems and improving connectivity. HS2’s size, cost and geographic spread makes it different. It cannot be business as usual. This is an opportunity to do things differently.”

Higgins added: “We are transforming a Victorian railway to one that fits our needs. It signals transformation. HS2 matters to the country.

“We are looking for new standards in cost effectiveness and learning from the rest of the world – it would be foolish to suggest that we cannot learn from the rest of the world’” he added. “Our goal is to take the skills base in this country to a new level.”

Higgins report in March said that benefits could be delivered six years earlier by accelerating construction of the route to Crewe as part of phase 1 of the project and so maintaining this historic railway town position at the heart of the rail network.

Last week Stoke presented a new HS2 western leg route to Government which it said would cut £2bn off the price and could be built seven years faster than existing proposals. The plan, it said, also met the Deighton Review criteria to boost economic benefits across the region and create better city connections across the north.

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